Introduction: Easy Royal Icing
It's almost that time of year when everyone will be showing off their Christmas cookie skills. What about you? Need some help? Let's get ready by making this simple royal icing recipe. You can use this recipe for anything from icing cookies, to making royal icing transfers or even piping roses! Let's get started!
As always, for best results review the entire post before beginning your Royal Icing Quest! Please feel free to request any further tutorials you think would make your journey more successful.
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients and Equipment
Trust me...it's just a few:
5 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup warm water
2.25 pounds confectioners sugar (1020 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional - to taste, can also use lemon, almond, or any other flavoring of your choice)
1 Tablespoon corn syrup (optional - see notes)
Stand mixer with paddle attachment; or hand mixer, but be prepared to stand and mix for a loooong time
Step 2: Prepare the Stabilizers!
Add the meringue powder and the warm water to the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk by hand for 30 seconds. (Don't make fun of my tiny whisk! I love it!) Add the cream of tartar and whisk for another 30 seconds.
NOTE: The cream of tartar is a stabilizer and will allow the icing to set more quickly than just meringue powder alone. You can certainly make this royal icing without the cream of tartar, but just be prepared to let your cookies or royal icing designs more time to dry and harden.
Step 3: Add the Remaining Ingredients
Add everything else! See? Wasn't that easy?
Dump in all the powdered sugar (well, maybe you should add it gently instead of dumping, if you want to avoid a powdered sugar storm), the flavoring(s), and corn syrup. Using the paddle attachment, mix all ingredients on the lowest speed for 10 minutes.
As mentioned previously, the flavorings and the corn syrup are not necessary, but here are a few things to consider:
Not all meringue powders are the same. I personally do not like the taste, and I've tried many brands. I find that flavoring the royal icing really helps the overall taste and can really add some nice flavor profiles to your cookies.
Adding corn syrup to royal icing takes a bit of the 'bite' out. Sometimes royal icing can be very hard, and this makes it just a bit softer to the bite. Again, this is not necessary, but I find it has a nicer end result.
Step 4: Here It Is!
Look at this nice, thick, glossy royal icing! Isn't it beautiful?
Now what, you ask? Use it!
Check out the next few steps for some notes and tips for use.
Step 5: Royal Icing Consistencies and Uses
Stiff consistency: This is the consistency you get when the icing comes right off the mixer. This is good for roses, ruffles, and borders. It holds a stiff peak but you can still spread it. See pic 1.
Medium consistency: This icing can hold soft peaks. It will not spread out on it's own, but you can smooth it out with a toothpick. Medium consistency is good for royal icing transfers, lettering, and outlines. You achieve medium consistency by starting with stiff icing and adding water, a LITTLE at a time (depending on how much icing you start with, maybe 1 teaspoon at a time), until you get to the desired consistency. See pic 2. Also see final video where I demonstrate use of medium consistency royal icing for a henna design.
Flood consistency: You will usually hear this referred to as anywhere from 10-second to 20-second icing. I personally prefer 15-second icing. This refers to the number of seconds it takes for the icing to smooth out in your bowl after you run a knife through it (see video for demonstration). Flood consistency icing is good for flooding a base color on cookies, or any wet-on-wet techniques.
As an example, the Christmas cookies in the picture shows all three consistencies:
- For the snowman and the gingerbread man, I used flood consistency icing for the base colors (white and brown bodies, and black hat).
- For the lines and face on the gingerbread man, and the buttons and face on the snowman I used medium consistency icing.
- For the nose on the snowman and the boughs on the Christmas tree I used stiff consistency icing.
Step 6: Storage
In some regards, royal icing is finicky. When left out, it will definitely dry hard and as such, great care should be taken to keep it fluid and ready for use.
- If you are using it right away, keep it covered at all times. If you are using it right out of the mixing bowl, keep a damp towel over it in between uses. Make sure you continuously check to make sure the towel has not dried out, or your royal icing will begin to dry out. If you have the royal icing in piping bags, make sure you cover the tips with a damp cloth or damp paper towel in between uses so the icing doesn't dry out in the tips.
- If you are using it over the next week, keep it in an air tight container on the counter. When you go to use it, you will see that it has separated (the amount of separation depends on how long it was left out before use). It is important to mix it again before use in order to incorporate all the ingredients again. Alternatively, you can store it in an air tight container in the fridge as well, there tends to be less separation, but the icing will still need to be remixed before use.
- If you will not be using your royal icing within a week, freeze it. Royal icing can easily be stored in air tight containers or plastic freezer bags for later use. Just be sure to plan ahead in order to have enough time for it to defrost before use. As with icing left on the counter, the icing will need to be remixed before use.
NOTE: never store the royal icing in piping bags! Regardless of how you store it, you will always need to remix it, and storing it in the piping bags you are using does not give you that opportunity, so just empty out your piping bags into an air tight container instead.
I hope this has been helpful! Let me know of any questions :) Happy Baking